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OC Register: Zack Cozart’s calf injury is an opportunity for the Angels’ other infielders

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Zack Cozart’s availability for Opening Day is in doubt after the infielder was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain in his left calf muscle.

Cozart suffered the injury on Sunday while warming up for the Angels’ Cactus League game against the A’s.

“Grade 1 is the mildest grade, so that’s a plus,” Manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday. “I don’t think Zack really was sure (what happened). He just felt something in his calf. He felt better the morning following the injury. He feels much better today, which is a great sign, but he’s not going to be on the field for a few weeks.”

The Angels are three weeks away from their final exhibition game, March 26 against the Dodgers. Opening Day is two days later in Oakland. Ausmus said it’s too soon to know whether Cozart will begin the season on the injured list, but the diagnosis certainly makes it possible.

That could be a boon for Taylor Ward, Luis Rengifo, Kaleb Cowart or Tommy La Stella. Before Cozart’s injury, one of the four figured to make the Opening Day roster as the team’s backup infielder, perhaps two if Cowart earned his keep as a two-way pitcher/hitter.

David Fletcher, who’s also seen time at second base, shortstop and the outfield, could move to third base in Cozart’s absence. That scenario would leave an opening at second base for one of the 40-man roster candidates above – only Ward hasn’t played second base professionally – or non-roster invitee Wilfredo Tovar.

“It definitely has an impact on other players,” Ausmus said.

Cozart initially didn’t believe he strained the muscle, comparing the sensation to that of a bad Charley Horse. At 33, the veteran was looking to bounce back in the second year of a three-year, $38 million contract he signed with the Angels in Dec. 2017. He was limited to 58 games last year because of a shoulder injury.

In other injury news, left-hander Andrew Heaney threw a bullpen for the first time since he was diagnosed with inflammation in his elbow. Heaney threw 30 pitches to catcher Jonathan Lucroy and could start a Cactus League game for the Angels as early as Friday.


Pitcher Keynan Middleton is throwing on flat ground from up to 120 feet. His next time off a mound will be his first since having Tommy John surgery last May. It will also be a chance for him to test his new weight.

Middleton lost a significant amount of weight following his surgery – he wouldn’t say how much – by changing his eating habits and working out year-round under the guidance of Angels strength and conditioning coach Sean Johnson. Team nutritionist Becci Twombley helped Middleton devise a diet.

“Post-surgery, I said ‘I want to lose some of this bad weight’,” Middleton said. “I told her some foods I like. At the beginning I had nothing to do, so we put together a diet plan.”

The biggest change, Middleton said, is that he isn’t eating out as much these days. Middleton said he took cooking classes all throughout high school, so the skill has been useful. He and Angels pitcher Jake Jewell were roommates throughout their rehab processes – Jewell broke his right fibula last June – and partook of each other’s culinary talents.

“He’s a really good cook, actually,” Jewell said of Middleton.


Matt Harvey will make his Cactus League debut Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander threw 29 pitches over two innings in a “B” game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. … Felix Peña and Jaime Barría will start the Angels’ two split-squad games Thursday, a road game against the Royals and a home game against the Dodgers. … Shohei Ohtani took 25 soft-toss swings in the batting cage, then tracked pitches in the bullpen. “Yesterday he was saying he was feeling a little better and feeling good swinging the bat,” Ausmus said. “He’s still trending in the right direction. At some point, he’ll make the next step to coach BP in the cage.”

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